The Cruelty Off Stage, Spoken Yet Unseen

Homer, Iliad 6.53-62

“And then [Menelaos] was intending to give Adrastus
To an attendant to take back to the Achaeans’ swift ships
But Agamemnon came rushing in front of him and spoke commandingly
“Oh my fool Menelaos, why do you care so much about people?
Did your house suffer the best treatment by the Trojans?
Let none of them flee dread death at our hands,
Not even  a mother who carries in her womb
a child that will be a boy, let not one flee, but instead
Let everyone at Troy perish, unwept and unseen.”

The hero spoke like this and changed his brother’s mind,
Since he advised properly…

καὶ δή μιν τάχ᾽ ἔμελλε θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
δώσειν ᾧ θεράποντι καταξέμεν: ἀλλ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων
ἀντίος ἦλθε θέων, καὶ ὁμοκλήσας ἔπος ηὔδα:
‘ὦ πέπον ὦ Μενέλαε, τί ἢ δὲ σὺ κήδεαι οὕτως
ἀνδρῶν; ἦ σοὶ ἄριστα πεποίηται κατὰ οἶκον
πρὸς Τρώων; τῶν μή τις ὑπεκφύγοι αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον
χεῖράς θ᾽ ἡμετέρας, μηδ᾽ ὅν τινα γαστέρι μήτηρ
κοῦρον ἐόντα φέροι, μηδ᾽ ὃς φύγοι, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα πάντες
Ἰλίου ἐξαπολοίατ᾽ ἀκήδεστοι καὶ ἄφαντοι.

ὣς εἰπὼν ἔτρεψεν ἀδελφειοῦ φρένας ἥρως
αἴσιμα παρειπών:

Schol, bT ad Il 6.58-59 ex [from the Erbse edition]

 “these words are hateful and ill-fit to a noble manner. For they indicate a savageness of spirit and any human audience member will hate the excess bitterness and inhumanity. This is why tragedians hide people who do these kinds of things on stage and signal what was done either through the sound of some voices or through messengers later, for no other reason than they might be hated for what was done”

μηδ’ ὅντινα<—μηδ’ ὃς φύγοι>: μισητὰ καὶ οὐχἁρμόζοντα βασιλικῷ ἤθει τὰ ῥήματα· τρόπου γὰρ ἐνδείκνυσι θηριότητα, ὁ δὲ ἀκροατὴς ἄνθρωπος ὢν μισεῖ τὸ ἄγαν πικρὸν καὶ ἀπάνθρωπον. ὅθεν κἀν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις κρύπτουσι τοὺς δρῶντας τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐν ταῖς σκηναῖς καὶ ἢ φωναῖς τισιν ἐξακουομέναις ἢ δι’ ἀγγέλων ὕστερον σημαίνουσι τὰ πραχθέντα, οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ φοβούμενοι, μὴ αὐτοὶ συμμισηθῶσι τοῖς δρωμένοις….

A few more glosses from the scholia

Schol b ad Il. 6.59

“Who is a boy”: because a female infant would be useless for battle

<κοῦρον ἐόντα:> ἄχρηστον γὰρ εἰς μάχην τὸ θῆλυ.

Schol bT ad Il. 6.60a

ἀκήδεστοι: “unmourned” for people who don’t have someone grieving them

ἄφαντοι: “unseen” because no one leaves behind a grave marker for them

ἀκήδεστοι: μὴ ἔχοντες τὸν κηδεύοντα.

ἄφαντοι: ὡς μηδὲ μνημεῖον αὐτῶν παραλείπεσθαι.

 

Schol bT ad Il. 6.62

αἴσιμα παρειπών: “fated things” or “things proper for people who have done wrong”. The poet bears witness to how correctly Agamemnon has ordered his speech.”

αἴσιμα παρειπών: εἱμαρμένα, ἢ τὰ πρέποντα τοῖς ἀδικουμένοις. ἐμαρτύρησε δὲ ὁ ποιητὴς αὐτῷ ὡς καλῶς διαθεμένῳ τοὺς λόγους.

black-figured amphora: the death of Priam; Priam is being battered to death with the body of his grandson Astyanax. BM 1842,0314.3

 

The Sad Death of Hesiod and His Body’s Afterlife

According to the following account, Hesiod died for another man’s crimes. His corpse was moved by dolphins. 

Plutarch, Dinner of the Seven Wise Men 19 (= Moralia 162d-e)

“Hesiod’s misfortune was rather human and like our own—you have probably heard the story”

‘No, I have not’, I said.

‘Well, it is really worth hearing. It seems that Hesiod was sharing hospitality and a place with a man from Miletus when they were in Lokris. When the other guy was secretly having sex with their host’s daughter and was caught, he had suspicion that Hesiod knew from the beginning and conspired to hide the offense—even though he was responsible for nothing, he wrongly encountered untimely rage and slander. For the brothers of the girl killed him after they ambushed him near the Nemeion in Lokris, and they killed his servant, named Troilos, too.

After the bodies were pushed out into the river Daphnos, Troilos’ was carried to a boulder washed by water, positioned a little bit out into the sea. And to this day the boulder is called Troilos. A pod of dolphins took Hesiod’s body right away and conveyed it first to Rhion and Molykria. It just happened that the Lokrian sacrifice at Rhion and their assembly, which they hold occasionally even to our time in that place, was in progress at that time. When the body showed up, carried as it was, they were amazed at the chance and they ran down and, when they recognized the corpse since it was still rather fresh, they considered everything secondary to investigating the murder, all because of Hesiod’s fame

They accomplished this quickly by discovering the murderers [a dog went barking and hunting the murderers with a shout]. They put them still alive in the sea and destroyed their homes. Hesiod was then buried near Nemeia. Many people foreign to the region do not know where the grave is. It is hidden because, as they claim, it was sought by the people of Orkhomenos who wanted to transfer the remains to their vicinity in accordance with an oracle.”

Image result for Ancient Greek dolphin vase

.

Plutarchi sept. sap. conv. 19 (Hercher): ἀνθρώπινον δὲ καὶ πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸ τοῦ ῾Ησιόδου πάθος· ἀκήκοας γὰρ ἴσως τὸν λόγον. Οὐκ ἔγωγε, εἶπον. ᾿Αλλὰ μὴν ἄξιον πυθέσθαι.

Μιλησίου γὰρ ὡς ἔοικεν ἀνδρός, ᾧ ξενίας ἐκοινώνει ὁ ῾Ησίοδος καὶ διαίτης ἐν Λοκροῖς, τῇ τοῦ ξένου θυγατρὶ κρύφα συγγενομένου καὶ φωραθέντος, ὑποψίαν ἔσχεν ὡς γνοὺς ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς καὶ συνεπικρύψας τὸ ἀδίκημα, μηδενὸς ὢν αἴτιος ὀργῇ δ’ ἀκαίρῳ καὶ διαβολῇ περιπεσὼν ἀδίκως. ἀπέκτειναν γὰρ αὐτὸν οἱ τῆς παιδίσκης ἀδελφοὶ περὶ τὸ Λοκρικὸν Νέμειον ἐνεδρεύσαντες καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀκόλουθον ᾧ Τρωίλος ἦν ὄνομα. τῶν δὲ σωμάτων εἰς τὸν Δάφνον ποταμὸν ὠσθέντων τὸ μὲν τοῦ Τρωίλου εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἔξω φορούμενον ἐπεσχέθη περικλύστῳ χοιράδι  μικρὸν ὑπὲρ τὴν θάλασσαν ἀνεχούσῃ· καὶ μέχρι νῦν Τρωίλος ἡ χοιρὰς καλεῖται. τοῦ δ’ ῾Ησιόδου τὸν νεκρὸν εὐθὺς ἀπὸ γῆς ὑπολαβοῦσα δελφίνων ἀγέλη πρὸς τὸ ῾Ρίον ἐκόμιζε καὶ τὴν Μολυκρίαν. ἐτύγχανε δὲ Λοκροῖς ἡ τῶν ῾Ρίων καθεστῶσα θυσία καὶ πανήγυρις, ἣν ἄγουσιν ἔτι νῦν περιφανῶς περὶ τὸν τόπον ἐκεῖνον. ὡς δ’ ὤφθη προσφερόμενον τὸ σῶμα, θαυμάσαντες ὡς εἰκὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκτὴν κατέδραμον καὶ γνωρίσαντες ἔτι πρόσφατον τὸν νεκρόν, ἅπαντα δεύτερα τοῦ ζητεῖν τὸν φόνον ἐποιοῦντο διὰ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ῾Ησιόδου. καὶ τοῦτο μὲν ταχέως ἔπραξαν εὑρόντες τοὺς φονέας (add. Plut. de soll. an. 36: τοῦ κυνὸς ὑλακτοῦντος καὶ μετὰ βοῆς ἐπιφερομένου τοῖς φονεῦσιν)· αὐτούς τε γὰρ κατεπόντισαν ζῶντας καὶ τὴν οἰκίαν κατέσκαψαν. ἐτάφη δ’ ὁ ῾Ησίοδος πρὸς τῷ Νεμείῳ· τὸν δὲ τάφον οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ξένων οὐκ ἴσασιν, ἀλλ’ ἀποκέκρυπται, ζητούμενος ὑπ’ ᾿Ορχομενίων, ὥς φασι, βουλομένων κατὰ χρησμὸν ἀνελέσθαι τὰ λείψανα καὶ θάψαι παρ’ αὑτοῖς.

The Certamen of Homer and Hesiod has a similar account but with some differences

“After the contest [with Homer] was over, Hesiod went to Delphi to get an oracle and to make a thanks-offering for the victory to the god. When he arrived at the shrine, people claim that the prophetess was inspired and said:

“This lucky man who travels to my home
Is Hesiod, honored by the divine Muses.
His fame will spread as far as the sun shines.
But guard against the gorgeous grove of Nemeian Zeus.
It is there where your fated death will come.”

Hesiod, after he heard this oracle, went retreating from the Peloponnese because he believed  that the god meant the oracle there. He went to Oinoê in Lokris and rested with Amphiphanes and Ganuktôr, the children of Phêgeus,  and he really did not understand the oracle. For this place was called the shrine of Zeus Nemeios. After he spent a period of time with the Oineans, the youths, because they suspected that Hesiod fornicated with their sister, killed him and through hem into the sea between Euboia and Lokris.

When the abandoned corpse was carried by dolphins to land, there was some local festival happening and everyone ran to the shore. Once they recognized who this was, they grieved and buried him—and then they began to seek his murderers. The brothers, because they feared the rage of the citizens, made off with a fishing skiff and sailed toward Krêtê. Zeus struck that vessel in the middle with lightening and submerged them in the sea, as Alkidamas says in the Mouseion.

Eratosthenes says in his epode that Ktimenos and Antiphon, the sons of Ganuktôr, were arrested for the aforementioned reason and sacrificed to the gods of hospitality by Eurukles the prophet. According to the same author, The virgin sister of these men hanged herself after she was raped—and Eratosthenes says she was raped by some stranger on the road who was named Hesiod, the son of Dêmades. He was also killed by the same men. Later, the Orkhomenians, in accordance with an oracle, transferred Hesiod and buried them in their land….”

Cert. Hom. et Hes. v. 214 West. (unde eadem Tzetzes

 τοῦ δὲ ἀγῶνος διαλυθέντος διέπλευσεν ὁ ῾Ησίοδος εἰς Δελφοὺς χρησόμενος καὶ τῆς νίκης ἀπαρχὰς τῷ θεῷ ἀναθήσων. προσερχομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ τῷ ναῷ ἔνθεον γενομένην τὴν προφῆτίν φασιν εἰπεῖν

ὄλβιος οὗτος ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐμὸν δόμον ἀμφιπολεύει,

῾Ησίοδος Μούσῃσι τετιμένος ἀθανάτῃσι·

τοῦ δή τοι κλέος ἔσται ὅσην τ’ ἐπικίδναται ἠώς.

ἀλλὰ Διὸς πεφύλαξο Νεμείου κάλλιμον ἄλσος·

κεῖθι δέ τοι θανάτοιο τέλος πεπρωμένον ἐστίν.

ὁ δὲ ῾Ησίοδος ἀκούσας τοῦ χρησμοῦ τῆς Πελοποννήσου μὲν ἀνεχώρει νομίσας τὴν ἐκεῖ Νεμέαν τὸν θεὸν λέγειν, εἰς δὲ  Οἰνόην τῆς Λοκρίδος ἐλθὼν καταλύει παρὰ ᾿Αμφιφάνει καὶ Γανύκτορι, τοῖς Φηγέως παισίν, ἀγνοήσας τὸ μαντεῖον· ὁ γὰρ τόπος οὗτος ἐκαλεῖτο Διὸς Νεμείου ἱερόν. διατριβῆς δ’ αὐτῷ πλείονος γενομένης ἐν τοῖς Οἰνεῶσιν, ὑπονοήσαντες οἱ νεανίσκοι τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῶν μοιχεύειν τὸν ῾Ησίοδον, ἀποκτείναντες εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ τῆς Εὐβοίας καὶ τῆς Λοκρίδος πέλαγος κατεπόντισαν.

τοῦ δὲ νεκροῦ τριταίου πρὸς τὴν γῆν ὑπὸ δελφίνων προσενεχθέντος, ἑορτῆς τινὸς ἐπιχωρίου παρ’ αὐτοῖς οὔσης ἀριαδνείας πάντες ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν ἔδραμον καὶ τὸ σῶμα γνωρίσαντες ἐκεῖνο μὲν πενθήσαντες ἔθαψαν, τοὺς δὲ φονεῖς ἀνεζήτουν. οἱ δὲ φοβηθέντες τὴν τῶν πολιτῶν ὀργήν, κατασπάσαντες ἁλιευτικὸν σκάφος διέπλευσαν εἰς Κρήτην. οὓς κατὰ μέσον τὸν πλοῦν ὁ Ζεὺς κεραυνωθεὶς κατεπόντωσεν, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αλκιδάμας ἐν μουσείῳ φησιν ᾿Αλκιδάμας ἐν Μουσείῳ.

᾿Ερατοσθένης δέ φησιν ἐν † ἐνηπόδω † Κτίμενον καὶ ῎Αντιφον τοὺς Γανύκτορος ἐπὶ τῇ προειρημένῃ αἰτίᾳ ἀνελόντας σφαγιασθῆναι θεοῖς τοῖς  ξενίοις ὑπ’ Εὐρυκλέους τοῦ μάντεως. τὴν μέντοι παρθένον τὴν ἀδελφὴν τῶν προειρημένων μετὰ τὴν φθορὰν ἑαυτὴν ἀναρτῆσαι, φθαρῆναι δὲ ὑπό τινος ξένου συνόδου τοῦ ῾Ησιόδου Δημώδους ὄνομα· ὃν καὶ αὐτὸν ἀναιρεθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν αὐτῶν φησιν. ὕστερον δὲ ᾿Ορχομένιοι κατὰ χρησμὸν μετενέγκαντες αὐτὸν παρ’ αὑτοῖς ἔθαψαν καὶ ἐπέγραψαν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ·

Anger, Eggs, and Some Semen: A Recipe for Apostasy

Further adventures in the Homeric Scholia

Schol. b ad Il. 2.783

“They report that Gaia, annoyed over the murder of the giants, slandered Zeus to Hera and that she went to speak out to Kronos. He gave her two eggs and he rubbed them down with his own semen and ordered her to put them down in the ground from where a spirit would arise who would rebel against Zeus from the beginning. She did this because she was really angry and set them down below Arimos in Kilikia.

But when Typhoeus appeared Hera relented and told Zeus everything. He struck him down with lightning and named him Mt. Aetna. This report works well for us not to have an issue that this is the Homeric Account. He names the grave a resting place euphemistically.”

φασὶ τὴν Γῆν ἀγανακτοῦσαν ἐπὶ τῷ φόνῳ τῶν Γιγάντων διαβαλεῖν Δία τῇ ῞Ηρᾳ. τὴν δὲ πρὸς Κρόνον ἀπελθοῦσαν ἐξειπεῖν. τὸν δὲ δοῦναι αὐτῇ δύο ᾠά, τῷ ἰδίῳ χρίσαντα θορῷ καὶ κελεύσαντα κατὰ γῆς ἀποθέσθαι, ἀφ’ ὧν ἀναδοθήσεται δαίμων ὁ ἀποστήσων Δία τῆς ἀρχῆς. θέσθαι, ἀφ’ ὧν ἀναδοθήσεται δαίμων ὁ ἀποστήσων Δία τῆς ἀρχῆς. ἡ δέ, ὡς εἶχεν ὀργῆς, ἔθετο αὐτὰ ὑπὸ τὸ ῎Αριμον τῆς Κιλικίας. ἀναδο-θέντος δὲ τοῦ Τυφῶνος ῞Ηρα διαλλαγεῖσα Διῒ τὸ πᾶν ἐκφαίνει. ὁ δὲ κεραυνώσας Αἴτνην τὸ ὄρος ὠνόμασεν. καλῶς δὲ καὶ τὸ φασίν, ἵνα  μὴ προσκρούοιμεν ὡς ῾Ομηρικῷ ὄντι τῷ στίχῳ. εὐφήμως δὲ τὸν τάφον εὐνὰς ἐκάλεσεν.

Heracles and Typhon, Acr. 36 plus. From the West Pediment of Hekatompedon. Acropolis Musuem, Athens.

Who Was the Second Most Beautiful Greek At Troy?

Homer, Iliad. 2.673–674

“Nireus who was the most beautiful man who came to Troy
Of the rest of the Danaans, after Peleus’ blameless son.
But he was weak and a small army followed him.”

Νιρεύς, ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθε
τῶν ἄλλων Δαναῶν μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλεΐωνα·
ἀλλ’ ἀλαπαδνὸς ἔην, παῦρος δέ οἱ εἵπετο λαός.

Scholia b. ad Il.2.673 ex

<Lemma> his beauty in reputation was not of a kind with his family; Achilles, however, was adorned in both ways. Because [the poet] was a philhellene, he was trying to make everyone worthy of memory and used to praise everyone as far as he might be believed and so that we might imagine the Greeks to be differentiated in their manliness, or their body, or their beauty.”

ex. <Νιρεύς, ὃς κάλλιστος—μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα:> οὐδὲ ἓν πρὸς δόξαν κάλλος ἀγεννές· ᾿Αχιλλεὺς δὲ ἀμφοτέροις κεκόσμηται. φιλέλλην δὲ ὢν πάντας ἀξιομνήστους ποιεῖ καὶ πάντας ἐπαινεῖ, ὅπως πιστεύοιτο, καὶ ἵνα τοὺς ἐν ἀνδρείᾳ καὶ σώματι καὶ κάλλει διαφέροντας εἰδῶμεν ῞Ελληνας. b(BCE3E4)

Schol. A ad Hom. Il. 2.673 ex

“Diplai have been applied to question these three lines because Zenodotus athetized two of them, although he did not mark the middle one, (674) because Homer always strove to have Achilles stand out far in front of the rest.”

Νιρεὺς ὃς κάλλιστος<—εἵπετο λαός>: τρισὶ στίχοις παράκεινται διπλαῖ περιεστιγμέναι, ὅτι ἐκ τῶν τριῶν τοὺς δύο (sc. 673. 675) ἠθέτηκε Ζηνόδοτος, τὸν δὲ μέσον (sc. 674) οὐδὲ ἔγραφεν, τοῦ ῾Ομήρου φιλοτιμουμένου ἐν πᾶσι τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα προτεροῦντα στῆσαι. A

Galen, Adhortio ad artes addiscendas 8.28

“And because of that, Homer mentioned [Nireus] only once and in the Catalog Of Ships, as it seems to me, to make a demonstration of the uselessness of the most beautiful men, when they have none of the other things that are useful for life.”

καὶ διὰ τοῦθ’ ἅπαξ αὐτοῦ μόνον ἐμνημόνευσεν ῞Ομηρος ἐν νεῶν καταλόγῳ πρὸς
ἐπίδειξιν, ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, τῆς τῶν καλλίστων ἀνδρῶν ἀχρηστίας, ὅταν αὐτοῖς ὑπάρχῃ
μηδὲν ἄλλο τῶν εἰς τὸν βίον χρησίμων.

From the Suda

Nireus: the beautiful and handsome man. Neireus, a snail. Nêreus, the man of the sea.

Νιρεύς: ὁ καλὸς καὶ εὔμορφος. Νειρεύς, ὁ κόχλος, Νηρεύς, ὁ
θαλάσσιος.

Image result for ancient greek vase beautiful man
MFA: Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 002.

Filling Up the Heart

Homer Iliad, 1.517

“And [glaring greatly] cloud-gathering Zeus addressed her”

1.517 Τὴν δὲ μέγ’ ὀχθήσας προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·

Schol. bT ad Il. 1.517 ex

“This is from filling the spirit/heart up to the top, from the word [river banks]. Or, it is from the word “burden”, the form “overburdened” which is a form of the aorist passive participle, as okhthêsas is.

ex. ὀχθήσας: εἰς ὕψος ἐπάρας τὸν θυμόν, παρὰ τοὺς ὄχθους. ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἄχθος ἀχθήσας, ὅ ἐστιν ἀχθεσθείς, καὶ ὀχθήσας

There is, of course, at least one article about this:

Holoka, James P. “”Looking Darkly” (ϒΠΟΔΡΑΙΔΩ&# X039D;): Reflections on Status and Decorum in Homer.” Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-) 113 (1983): 1-16. doi:10.2307/283999.

looking darkly

Later, Holoka concludes:

Looking darkly 2

Like Blood Poured Over Milk: It Gets Worse When Achilles Dies

Inspired by the essay “Just a Girl: Being Briseis“, I have been reading through more passages about Briseis. In the Iliad, she performs a memorable lament for Patroklos. The much later Posthomerica similarly instrumentalizes her grief and uses her character as a way to amplify the loss of Achilles. Note, however, the really terrible observation of this passage that for a woman in war it can always get worse.

Quintus, Posthomerica 3.551-573

“Of all the women, Briseis felt the most terrible grief
in her heart within, the companion of warring Achilles.
She turned over his corpse and tore at her fine skin
With both hands and from her delicate chest
Bloody bruises rose up from the force of her blows—
You might even say it was like blood poured over milk.
Yet she still shined even as she mourned in pain
And her whole form exuded grace.
This is the kind of speech she made while mourning:

“Oh what endless horror I have suffered.
Nothing that happened to me before this was so great
Not the death of my brothers nor the loss of my country,

Nothing exceeds your death. You were my sacred day
And the light of the sun and the gentle life,
My hope for good and tireless defense against pain—
You were better by far than any gift, than my parents even—
You were everything alone for me even though I was enslaved.

You took me as your bedmate and seized me from a slave’s labor.
But now? Some other Achaean will take me away in his ships
To fertile Sparta or dry and thirsty Argos
Where I will again suffer terrible things working away,
Apart from you and miserable. I only wish that
The earth had covered over me before I saw your death.”

πασάων δ’ ἔκπαγλον ἀκηχεμένη κέαρ ἔνδον
Βρισηὶς παράκοιτις ἐυπτολέμου Ἀχιλῆος
ἀμφὶ νέκυν στρωφᾶτο καὶ ἀμφοτέρῃς παλάμῃσι
δρυπτομένη χρόα καλὸν ἀύτεεν· ἐκ δ’ ἁπαλοῖο
στήθεος αἱματόεσσαι ἀνὰ σμώδιγγες ἄερθεν
θεινομένης· φαίης κεν ἐπὶ γλάγος αἷμα χέασθαι
φοίνιον. ἀγλαΐη δὲ καὶ ἀχνυμένης ἀλεγεινῶς
ἱμερόεν μάρμαιρε, χάρις δέ οἱ ἄμπεχεν εἶδος.
τοῖον δ’ ἔκφατο μῦθον ὀιζυρὸν γοόωσα·
“Ὤ μοι ἐγὼ πάντων περιώσιον αἰνὰ παθοῦσα·
οὐ γάρ μοι τόσσον περ ἐπήλυθεν ἄλλό τι πῆμα,
οὔτε κασιγνήτων οὔτ’ εὐρυχόρου περὶ πάτρης,
ὅσσον σεῖο θανόντος· ἐπεὶ σύ μοι ἱερὸν ἦμαρ
καὶ φάος ἠελίοιο πέλες καὶ μείλιχος αἰὼν
ἐλπωρή τ’ ἀγαθοῖο καὶ ἄσπετον ἄλκαρ ἀνίης
πάσης τ’ ἀγλαΐης πολὺ φέρτερος ἠδὲ τοκήων
ἔπλεο· πάντα γὰρ οἶος ἔης δμωῇ περ ἐούσῃ,
καί ῥά με θῆκας ἄκοιτιν ἑλὼν ἄπο δούλια ἔργα.
νῦν δέ τις ἐν νήεσσιν Ἀχαιῶν ἄξεται ἄλλος
Σπάρτην εἰς ἐρίβωλον ἢ ἐς πολυδίψιον Ἄργος·
καί νύ κεν ἀμφιπολεῦσα κακὰς ὑποτλήσομ’ ἀνίας
σεῦ ἀπονοσφισθεῖσα δυσάμμορος. ὡς ὄφελόν με
γαῖα χυτὴ ἐκάλυψε πάρος σέο πότμον ἰδέσθαι.”

17th Century Tapestry based on Rubens’ “Briseis Returned to Achilles?

Go Get Briseis

This selection from the Iliad begins with Agamemnon, ends with Achilles, and has at its center Briseis, a woman captured in war and warred over by the Achaean heroes.

Iliad 1.318-350

Agamemnon did not threaten Achilles
and leave it at that. No, he told his able servants,
the heralds Talthybius and Eurybates:
“Go to Achilles’ hut, take Briseis by the arm,
and bring her here. If he won’t give her up,
well, I’ll go with more men and take her myself—
and all the worse for him.”

With that harsh instruction, he sent them on their way.
Reluctant, they walked the shore of the barren sea
to the Myrmidon encampment. And there they found him,
Achilles, idling by his hut and black ship,
not glad to see them. Frightened, awestruck,
they stood before the king saying nothing,
asking nothing. But, in his heart he knew.
He spoke: “Greetings, heralds. Messengers of Zeus and men,
come closer. You’re not to blame; Agamemnon is.
He’s the one who sent you for the girl, Briseis.
Come then, Zeus-born Patroclus, bring the girl out.
Give her to them to take away . . .”

And so Patroclus obeyed his dear comrade:
he brought Briseis from the hut and gave her over
to be led away. The men went back the way they came,
along the Achaean ships. The woman, reluctant,
went with them. Achilles was in tears.
He left his comrades, sat down on the grey sea’s shore,
and looked out on the boundless waters.

I want to highlight a word which occurs twice in the passage: ἀέκων, which I translate “reluctant.” Homer uses it to describe the heralds as they go to collect Briseis from Achilles. Some lines later he uses it to describe Briseis as the heralds return with her to Agamemnon.

What to make of this symmetry? Does it make sense to suggest the heralds and Briseis are in the same boat? The heralds seem to be reluctant because they fear Achilles. But Briseis is unconsenting in a more fundamental way: she’s a sex slave; all that’s happening is against her will. In other words, there’s reluctance, and then there’s reluctance. Homer, I suspect, is neither so monstrous nor so obtuse as to elide the difference.

So try this: in the passage above, reluctance isn’t a disposition of minds, but a disposition of bodies. Whether it’s the heralds or Briseis we’re talking about, the phenomenology of reluctantly going someplace would be largely the same: dragging feet; nervous glancing; head down; unsmiling expression, etc.

That’s one way to justify the symmetry suggested by ἀέκων (“reluctant”), but is that satisfying? I can’t resolve the matter. But what I’m sure of is that conundrums of this sort contribute to the Iliad’s claim on our attention.

Iliad 1.318-350

. . . οὐδ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων
λῆγ᾽ ἔριδος τὴν πρῶτον ἐπηπείλησ᾽ Ἀχιλῆϊ,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ γε Ταλθύβιόν τε καὶ Εὐρυβάτην προσέειπε,
τώ οἱ ἔσαν κήρυκε καὶ ὀτρηρὼ θεράποντε:
ἔρχεσθον κλισίην Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος:
χειρὸς ἑλόντ᾽ ἀγέμεν Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον:
εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώῃσιν ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι
ἐλθὼν σὺν πλεόνεσσι: τό οἱ καὶ ῥίγιον ἔσται.

ὣς εἰπὼν προΐει, κρατερὸν δ᾽ ἐπὶ μῦθον ἔτελλε:
τὼ δ᾽ ἀέκοντε βάτην παρὰ θῖν᾽ ἁλὸς ἀτρυγέτοιο,
Μυρμιδόνων δ᾽ ἐπί τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἱκέσθην,
τὸν δ᾽ εὗρον παρά τε κλισίῃ καὶ νηῒ μελαίνῃ
ἥμενον: οὐδ᾽ ἄρα τώ γε ἰδὼν γήθησεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
τὼ μὲν ταρβήσαντε καὶ αἰδομένω βασιλῆα
στήτην, οὐδέ τί μιν προσεφώνεον οὐδ᾽ ἐρέοντο:
αὐτὰρ ὃ ἔγνω ᾗσιν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ φώνησέν τε:
χαίρετε κήρυκες Διὸς ἄγγελοι ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν,
ἆσσον ἴτ᾽: οὔ τί μοι ὔμμες ἐπαίτιοι ἀλλ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων,
ὃ σφῶϊ προΐει Βρισηΐδος εἵνεκα κούρης.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες ἔξαγε κούρην
καί σφωϊν δὸς ἄγειν . . .

ὣς φάτο, Πάτροκλος δὲ φίλῳ ἐπεπείθεθ᾽ ἑταίρῳ,
ἐκ δ᾽ ἄγαγε κλισίης Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον,
δῶκε δ᾽ ἄγειν: τὼ δ᾽ αὖτις ἴτην παρὰ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν:
ἣ δ᾽ ἀέκουσ᾽ ἅμα τοῖσι γυνὴ κίεν: αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
δακρύσας ἑτάρων ἄφαρ ἕζετο νόσφι λιασθείς,
θῖν᾽ ἔφ᾽ ἁλὸς πολιῆς, ὁρόων ἐπ᾽ ἀπείρονα πόντον:

 Photograph by Hans Bellmer, German Surrealist (1902-1975). The intimations of fear, sex, and violence seem appropriate.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Briseis Weeps

For more on the Iliad from Briseis’ point of view,  see the extraordinary anonymous essay, Just a Girl: Being Briseis

D Scholia to the Iliad:

“The Poet seems to use their patronymic names and not their personal ones, for other ancient accounts notes that [Chryseis] was named Astynomê and [Briseis] was named Hippodameia.”

ἔοικε δὲ πατρωνυμικῶς τὰ ὀνόματα αὐτῶν σχηματίζειν ὁ Ποιητὴς, καὶ οὐ κυρίως. ὡς γὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι ἀρχαῖοι ἱστοροῦσιν, ἡ μὲν, ᾿Αστυνόμη ἐκαλεῖτο, ἡ δὲ, ῾Ιπποδάμεια.

Homer Iliad 19. 281-302

“Then when Briseis, like golden Aphrodite herself,
Saw Patroklos run through with sharp bronze,
Poured herself over him while she wailed and ripped
At her chest, tender neck, and pretty face with her hands.
And while mourning the woman spoke like one of the goddesses:

“Patroklos, you were the dearest to wretched me and
I left you alive when I went from your dwelling.
And now I find you here dead, leader of the armies,
When I return. Troubles are always wresting me from troubles.
The husband my father and mother gave me to
I watched run through with sharp bronze in front of the city,
And then the three brothers my mother bore,
Dear siblings, all met their fate on that day.
But you would not ever let me weep when swift Achilles
Was killing my husband and when he sacked the city of divine Munêtos—
No, you used to promise to make me the wedded wife
Of divine Achilles, someone he would lead home in his ships to Phthia,
where you would light the marriage torches among the Myrmidons.
So now I weep for you, dead and gentle forever.”
So she spoke, while weeping….

Βρισηῒς δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτ’ ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ ᾿Αφροδίτῃ
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγ’ ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ’ ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ’ ἠδ’ ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα.
εἶπε δ’ ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·
Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι ὄρχαμε λαῶν
ἂψ ἀνιοῦσ’· ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί.
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ’ ἔασκες, ὅτ’ ἄνδρ’ ἐμὸν ὠκὺς ᾿Αχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ’ ἔφασκες ᾿Αχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ’ ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.
τώ σ’ ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί.
῝Ως ἔφατο κλαίουσ’…

For an exploration of this speech from compositional and thematic perspectives, see Casey Dué ‘s Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis.

The Cyclops Had Three Eyes and They Were His Brothers

John Malalas, Chronographia, V

“The wise Euripides put in his poetic drama about the Cyclops that he had three eyes, indicating by this that he had three brothers and that they cared for one another and kept a watchful eye on one another’s places in the island, fought together, and avenged one another.

And he also adds that he made the Cyclops drunk and unable to flee, because Odysseus made that very Cyclops “drunk” with a ton of money and gifts so he would not “eat those with him up”, which is not actually to consume them with slaughter.

He also says that Odysseus blinded his one eye with torch fire, really meaning that he stole away the only daughter of Polyphemos’ brother, a maiden named Elpê, with “fire”, which means he seized her on fire with burning lust. This is what it means that he burned Polyphemos in one of his eyes, he really deprived him of his daughter. The very wise Pheidias of Corinth provided this interpretation saying that Euripides explained this poetically because he did not agree with what the wisest Homer said about the wandering of Odysseus.”

ὁ γὰρ σοφὸς Εὐριπίδης <ποιητικῶς> δρᾶμα ἐξέθετο περὶ τοῦ Κύκλωπος, ὅτι τρεῖς ἔσχεν ὀφθαλμούς, σημαίνων τοὺς τρεῖς ἀδελφοὺς (50 F 2) ὡς συμπαθοῦντας ἀλλήλοις καὶ διαβλεπομένους τοὺς ἀλλήλων τόπους τῆς νήσου καὶ συμμαχοῦντας καὶ ἐκδικοῦντας ἀλλήλους. (2) καὶ ὅτι οἴνωι μεθύσας τὸν Κύκλωπα ἐκφυγεῖν ἠδυνήθη, διότι χρήμασι πολλοῖς καὶ δώροις ἐμέθυσε τὸν αὐτὸν Κύκλωπα ὁ ᾽Οδυσσεὺς πρὸς τὸ μὴ κατεσθίειν τοὺς μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ, <τουτέστι μὴ καταναλίσκειν σφαγαῖς>. (3) καὶ ὅτι λαβὼν ᾽Οδυσσεὺς λαμπάδα πυρὸς ἐτύφλωσε τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν ἕνα, διὁτι τὴν θυγατέρα τὴν μονογενῆ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ Πολυφήμου ῎Ελπην, παρθένον οὖσαν, λαμπάδι, πυρὸς ἐρωτικοῦ καυθεῖσαν ἥρπασε, τουτέστιν ἕνα τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν τοῦ Κύκλωπος ἐφλόγισε τὸν Πολύφημον τὴν αὐτοῦ θυγατέρα ἀφελόμενος. (4) ἥντινα ἑρμηνείαν ὁ σοφώτατος Φειδίας(?) ὁ Κορίνθιος ἐξέθετο, εἰρηκὼς ὅτι ὁ σοφὸς Εὐριπίδης ποιητικῶς πάντα μετέφρασε, μὴ συμφωνήσας τῶι σοφωτάτωι ῾Ομήρωι ἐκθεμένωι τὴν ᾽Οδυσσέως πλάνην.

Ok, this story might be totally nuts, but there was a scholiastic debate about how many eyes Polyphemos had.

Escaping the Self is Impossible

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1053-1075

“When people seem to feel that there is a weight
On their minds, which wears them out with its pressure–
If they were able to understand where it comes from and what causes
So great a burden of misery to press upon their chests,
They would hardly live their lives as we now see most do:
Each person does not know what he wants and always seeks
To change his place as if he could possibly slough off the burden.

Often this man departs from the doors of his great home,
When he has tired of being there, only to return suddenly
When he comes to believe that he is no better off outside.
He rushes out driving his ponies heedlessly to his villa
As if he were bringing crucial help to a burning home.
Yet when he arrives and crosses the threshold of the house,
He either falls into a deep sleep or pursues oblivion,
Or he even rushes to visit the city again,
This is the way each man flees from himself, but it is his self
That it is impossible to escape, so he clings to it thanklessly and hates.

He does this because he is a sick man who is ignorant of the cause.
If he knew the cause, he would abandon all these things
And begin his first study of the nature of things,
Since the problem is not that of a single hour but of eternal time—
In what state we must understand that all time will pass
For mortal man after the death that awaits all of us.”

Image result for ancient roman art death

Si possent homines, proinde ac sentire videntur
pondus inesse animo, quod se gravitate fatiget,
e quibus id fiat causis quoque noscere et unde
tanta mali tam quam moles in pectore constet,
haut ita vitam agerent, ut nunc plerumque videmus
quid sibi quisque velit nescire et quaerere semper,
commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit.
exit saepe foras magnis ex aedibus ille,
esse domi quem pertaesumst, subitoque [revertit>,
quippe foris nihilo melius qui sentiat esse.
currit agens mannos ad villam praecipitanter
auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans;
oscitat extemplo, tetigit cum limina villae,
aut abit in somnum gravis atque oblivia quaerit,
aut etiam properans urbem petit atque revisit.
hoc se quisque modo fugit, at quem scilicet, ut fit,
effugere haut potis est: ingratius haeret et odit
propterea, morbi quia causam non tenet aeger;
quam bene si videat, iam rebus quisque relictis
naturam primum studeat cognoscere rerum,
temporis aeterni quoniam, non unius horae,
ambigitur status, in quo sit mortalibus omnis
aetas, post mortem quae restat cumque manendo.